What Obama’s Reelection Means for Coal, Climate Change, and America’s Energy Future

From Huffington Post

By Mary Anne Hitt

President Obama’s victory yesterday was a victory for clean energy, one that gives us a fighting chance to slash coal pollution and turn the corner on climate change, in the wake of a devastating hurricane that brought global warming into sharp, painful focus for millions of Americans.

As the Sierra Club’s Michael Brune said on election night, “We did it.” Fossil fuel billionaires had spent at record levels to defeat Obama in this election, and Romney had returned the favor, promising to open the floodgates on more mining and drilling if elected. But then Hurricane Sandy hit the Eastern Seaboard, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg endorsed President Obama as the candidate most likely to lead on climate change, and Romney’s dismissal of rising oceans as a laugh line in his GOP convention speech became an especially chilling out-of-touch episode, in a Republican presidential campaign that had no shortage of such moments.

Ironically, the coal industry had pinned its hopes on Romney — the consummate businessman — to protect the industry from the harsh realities of the free market. Now, the coal industry will have to stop hiding behind inflammatory slogans like “the war on coal,” and will have to grapple with a marketplace and an American public that are turning away from coal in favor of cleaner, cheaper sources of energy. Coal will only produce 37 percent of America’s electricity this year, down from 50 percent just five years ago, and those trends show no signs of reversing.

In reality, the decline of coal and the rise of clean energy have more to do with Main Street and Wall Street than with Pennsylvania Avenue. Over the past four years, in almost every state in the nation, hundreds of thousands of people have worked together to retire polluting local coal plants, get more wind and solar power on the grid, and use energy more efficiently. Today, 125 coal plants — out of over 500 nationwide — are now slated for retirement. As a result, U.S. carbon emissions are at their lowest level in two decades, clean energy is coming on line at record levels, and tens of thousands of Americans now have clean energy jobs.

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